If you enter enough bass tournaments, it’s going to happen. After a perfect cast, a large bass grabs your lure and tries to take it away from you. A hook set and a short battle later, the fish unbuttons or breaks your line. Losing a quality bass during a tournament can ruin your day if you let it. When it happens, throw your hat, punch a tree or sit down and take a deep breathe. Do whatever it takes to get it out of your system in 5 seconds or less and get back to casting. If you fooled one big bass into biting, you can fool more to biting. The venting process will be different for everyone, but the goal is the same. Vent the frustration and forget about it until it’s time to tell stories at the end of the day. Dwelling on a missed opportunity will only reduce your efficiency and ability to hook up with another quality fish.
Anglers that start second guessing themselves tend to make more mistakes versus correcting an issue that may not really be there. Most accomplished anglers know one simple fact – sometimes bass win. During an American Bass Anglers championship tournament, I was in a great position after day one to win the two-day event. My first strike on the second day of the tournament was a monster bass in the double digit weight class. I had her hooked long enough to get a good look at her. She then decided this was not a game she wanted to play, and started pulling hard enough to eventually rip free.
Ten years ago, losing a giant bass like that would have ruined my day. I would have thrown my rod in the bottom of the boat, tossed my hat as far as I could, and muttered words that would make a sailor blush. Based on many experiences, I now know letting a single bass get into your head can destroy casting accuracy, prevent quality hook sets, and even cause poor judgment calls for the rest of the day.
If you cannot vent and forget the loss of a quality bass and move on, you will be headed down a river of heartache. Typically, after losing a bass, the first thing anglers question is the hook set: Should I let the fish have it longer, should I use a sweeping hook set, should I swing harder. The fact of the matter is you’ve been catching bass for years with your current hook set, so why change. Sometimes a bass wins. The first thing an angler should check is the hooks on the bait; make sure they are sharp and not bent or broken. Unless it’s a new technique, there is no reason to change up what has worked for you. Another common thought is equipment, should I use a different rod, different line, or maybe my reel is too fast or too slow. Again, if all these things have worked great for you in the past, why would they suddenly be a problem now? However, if you lost the bass due to line breakage, the line guides and reel line guide need to be inspected for cracks or burrs that could have damaged your line.
As the day wears on, tournament anglers will start thinking about what a missed opportunity could have meant to their current stringer. Constantly thinking I could have done this, or should have done that, and I would have X number of pounds. As the clock winds down, this thinking will drive an angler to fish faster; which in turn causes bad casts and missed opportunities. This causes more frustration that piles up with each occurrence. Each missed cast raises the temperature and soon you boil over. It’s very important to stay focused on the next cast and not on a cast made hours ago.
I watched a video of Kevin Van Dam during an Elite Series Tournament. At one point, KVD is battling a nice 4-5 pound bass to the boat. As he tries to boat flip the bass, it hits the side of the boat, comes loose, and falls back into the lake. Without missing a beat, KVD casts right back to the ledge he was fishing with his crankbait. Later in an interview, he was asked about that fish. KVD simply said “…if I get one five pounder to bite, I know I can get more to bite. Having your bait out of the water complaining is not going to catch them.”
Now, after many years of bass fishing, a missed opportunity is still no fun, but it does let me know I’m doing something right! Just like with any strike, caught or not, there is a clue to what the pattern of the day is. Don’t dwell, gather the information and keep casting. Your big bass paycheck at the end of the day makes it all worth it.